SingTel – BT

mio TV to air 3,200 hours of 2012 Olympics

Broadcast to be over 13 channels and is free for subscribers

SINGTEL’S coup of wresting ESPN Star Sports (ESS) from StarHub in 2009 might make this year a gold-medal one for the telco. Its pay TV operator, mio TV, will air more than 3,200 hours of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 13 channels because of its partnership with ESS. ESS had won the broadcast rights for London 2012 in a blanket deal for 22 countries in Asia.

This unprecedented scale of coverage will be free for all mio TV subscribers. Of the 13 channels, 10 will be dedicated to high-definition screening of the games which start in July. The other three – ESPN, Star Sports and ESPNEWS – will also provide Olympic coverage.

SingTel announced this yesterday, alongside its five-year sponsorship of the Singapore team at major Singapore National Olympic Council-sanctioned games, including the ones at London 2012.

‘We genuinely believe that the Singapore sports viewer is growing in his needs. It’s not just limited to where Singapore is playing. This trend is only going to grow,’ said Manu Sawhney, managing director of ESS.

He noted that during the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, TV viewership in Asia soared 60 per cent. ‘We expect whatever viewership figures we had last time to be blown through the roof.’

The last time the Olympic games aired in Singapore, it was rival operator StarHub that dominated the broadcast, with six channels. Other things were different in 2008, too. Then, ESS had been a partner of StarHub’s before its surprise switch to mio TV in 2009.

This time around, StarHub will not be airing any of the ‘live’ competitions. Instead, its coverage will take place through CNN’s highlights and interviews, as well as BBC World News’ coverage of results and Olympic-related material such as the Olympic Torch Relay.

MediaCorp, when contacted yesterday, declined to reveal broadcast plans but said that it is ‘planning for coverage beyond TV’ and will reveal more when the ‘full communication package is ready’.

‘Bearing in mind that there is going to be so much on display, we certainly are hoping for a huge spike in the number of people who are watching this, compared to previous Olympic games,’ said Allen Lew, SingTel CEO Singapore.

SingTel is moving as fast as it can to make hay before the horizon is darkened by cross-carriage laws that were mandated last year. Under this law, any exclusive content acquired after March 2010 has to be made available to a subscriber of a rival operator upon request.

For London 2012, SingTel’s partnership with ESS still leaves StarHub out in the cold because it was inked in 2009, before the cross-carriage mandate kicked in.

Even so, the fallout for StarHub over its lack of Olympic games coverage will be muted, some believe. ‘It’s hard to imagine significant customer movement,’ said Nomura analyst Sachin Gupta. ‘Olympics will be over a few weeks and similar to the Barclays Premier League, we may see some switching, or more customers could opt for two set-top boxes. In any case, customer’s wallet share will be redistributed.’

SingTel’s multi-year agreement with ESPN Star Sports, however, expires in mid-2013, BT understands.

After that, any exclusive deal will be at the mercy of the cross-carriage law. Even as mio TV’s ESPN advantage comes up for renegotiation, so will its chokehold on the Barclays Premier League which also expires next year.

‘The Premier League will decide how they want to sell the rights for this, whether it will be an auction like last time or (by) some other means,’ said Mr Lew yesterday. ‘Traditionally, they would do it about 12-15 months before the rights expire so we expect something about the process to be announced towards Q3 or Q4 this year.’

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